Whitsand Bay Circular Walk
A long loop with an optional shortcut (when the MoD practice range is not in use), this walk takes in the best of Cornwall's 'forgotten corner'. Coming inland from the South West Coast Path the footpath travels high above Whitsand Bay and along ancient routes and medieval green lanes through woodland and heathland, past wetlands and a natural reservoir full of wildlife.
Freathy parking area, grid ref: SX395523
From the parking area walk across the road and join the South West Coast Path (SWCP) heading west. As you near Tregantle Fort there is a junction on the SWCP. Continue to follow the path straight on if the flags are not flying, keeping right until you get to the big gates at step 2. From here follow signs for the permanent route. If the red flags are flying at Tregantle Fort you will have to join the road on a sharp bend signposted to Portwrinkle. Please take care when walking along the roads as they can experience heavy volumes of traffic. Details of firing practice times can be obtained by phoning 01752 822516.
Tregantle is the most western of a chain of more than 20 forts and batteries ringing Plymouth, costing £11m. They were built in response to Napoleon III's 1859 launch of the first armour-plated battleship, La Gloire. By the time the forts were complete however, fears of the French threat proved to be ill-founded and advances in technology made many of them unsuitable; they became known as 'Palmerston Follies'. Tregantle was designed for 35 guns and provided accommodation for 2000 men, but only one 32-pounder was installed, for just six men.
If the red flags are not flying at the entrance to the range, exit onto the road and follow the signs for the permanent route that take you alongside the B3247 towards Crafthole to the small lane junction at step 3.
Turn right off the main road heading north down the hill towards Blerrick Farm. When you reach the junction at Lower Blerrick turn left towards Kerslake. If there are no flags flying there is an option of a shorter walk. Instead of turning right towards Blerrick Farm, continue along the road and join the permanent route for the South West Coast Path. Follow the footpath until it meets up at the MoD gate to rejoin the return route at step 8.
Passing the ponds at Kerslake, bear right up the lane towards Trethill House. At the road junction in between several barns and a house turn right and follow this sunken lane down towards the A374.
Just before reaching the main road (A374) a footpath is signposted on your left that leads you up a valley towards Crafthole. Follow this path along the edge of several fields, across a wooden footbridge, through woodland and up past Crafthole reservoir.
The natural reservoir above Crafthole has provided a plentiful supply of fish for the local population since medieval times, and it is still used by anglers today. The nearby wetlands are teeming with wildlife. In spring the woodland is studded with wildflowers, along the edge of the pastureland and dotted around the heathland and the coast. The banks of coconut-scented gorse bushes are a riot of colour. Listen out for their seed pods popping on a hot summer day.
As the footpath nears the top it joins the main road (B3247). Turn left towards the roundabout and then right towards Portwrinkle passing the Finnygook Inn, a good chance for a break. Continue along the road following signs to Portwrinkle on your left. After a short walk down the hill take the footpath through the golf course until you rejoin the South West Coast Path.
Below the golf course is Finnygook beach, named after a notorious local smuggler, Silas Finny. He and his fellow 18th-century 'free traders' failed to agree over where to land a cargo of 'brandy for the parson, baccy for the clerk, laces for a lady', in Kipling's famous words. The argument became so heated that a disgruntled Finny tipped off the excise men to the operation. Smugglers who escaped the penalty exacted an awful revenge on Finny, whose ghost or 'gook', is said to haunt the fifteenth century Finnygook Inn to this day.
When you reach the South West Coast Path past Skinners Ball turn left (heading east) back towards Tregantle Fort. You will continue through the golf course and enter National Trust land at Trethill. Continue along the path until you reach the gate entering the MoD land.
If there are no flags flying, follow the waymarked path through the range, respecting the areas where public access is prohibited. Going through the gate at the end of the range, follow the waymarkers through the field above Kerslake Cliff and rejoin the return route at step 2. If flags are flying, follow the footpath round Tregantle Fort and take the footpath that leads out towards the road. Continue on the footpath that runs alongside the road until you rejoin the return route at step 3.
Freathy parking area, grid ref: SX395523
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